The Foundation concluded operations on December 31, 2020. Learn more.

The Foundation


A Vision for California

The S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation envisions a productive, vibrant, and sustainable California that is a model of success and a source of innovation.

The Foundation’s vision for California is pursued through two programs.

The Education Program focuses on helping young people develop the knowledge, skills, and character to explore and understand the world around them, growing into caring, informed, and productive adults. The Foundation supports students and educators in STEM education and character development, and encourages effective education policy.

The Environment Program concentrates on the management, stewardship, and conservation of the state’s natural resources by supporting organizations and partnerships that inform, demonstrate, implement, and advocate for improvements in water management and land stewardship.

Both programs work to strengthen the link between policy and practice, which is critical to achieving the Foundation’s vision.

The Effectiveness Team supports grantmaking in both programs, with a special emphasis on evaluation and learning as well as strengthening the capacity of grantees. This team also supports the president’s office in managing special grant funds – program investments outside of education and environment. In addition, the Effectiveness team works to advance knowledge in the field of philanthropy, especially on exits and spend downs, and to communicate lessons learned from the Foundation’s experience.

Foundation Perspective (video)

Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., Board Chair, and Lauren B. Dachs, President, share the Foundation’s vision to build a productive, vibrant, and sustainable California.

Watch video.


Foundation Values

The Foundation is committed to undertaking its work and making its philanthropic investments based on the values and aspirations of the Founder as well as identified needs in the areas in which we work. As individuals and as a team we strive for continuous improvement in how we do our work.

The Foundation’s guiding principles can be articulated by four core values:

  • Integrity
    The Foundation is committed to thoughtful and prudent stewardship of relationships and resources. Staff and Board work together to inspire the trust of our grantees, partners, and each other through a combination of honesty, open-mindedness, and accountability in pursuit of our goals.
  • Excellence
    The Foundation pursues excellence in all aspects of its programs and operations, adhering to the highest standards of professionalism. It maintains a central focus on a limited number of systems-change initiatives with well-defined goals and specific outcomes aimed at building knowledge, advancing solutions, and strengthening fields. The Foundation funds independent research and evaluation and is committed to sharing the results. Experienced staff engage in reflection and continuous learning to inform their work and serve the field.
  • Optimism
    Philanthropy is nothing if it is not about the future and faith in our collective ability to see and solve problems. Throughout the spend-down years (2009 through 2020), the core work of the Foundation is systems-change. We strive to be realistic, and expect challenges and set-backs along the way. We are making large, multi-year investments to address complex issues, ranging from water and land management in an era of extremes to reimagining how teachers are prepared for the classrooms of the 21st century, and preparing the next generation to lead with good character and commitment to community and society.
  • Respect
    We value empathy, diversity, and collegiality and commit to authentic, constructive dialogue and collaboration within the Foundation and with our grantees and partners. We strive to respect and earn the respect of our grantees, other partners, and our colleagues.